Bran Black interview with Peter Stefanovic, First Edition, Sky News

15 May 2024

Event: Bran Black interview with Peter Stefanovic, First Edition, Sky News
Speakers: Peter Stefanovic Host, First Edition, Sky News; Bran Black Chief Executive, Business Council of Australia
Topics: 2024-25 Federal Budget; competitiveness; wages; energy rebates; productivity; deficits


Peter Stefanovic Host, First Edition, Sky News: Bran Black the Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia, Bran, good to see you. Thanks for your time. So, we've had more time to crunch the numbers now, what are your impressions? Is this going to hurt or help business?

Bran Black Chief Executive, Business Council of Australia: Well, look, firstly, thank you so much for having me on the show. We were calling for a Budget that was going to increase Australia's competitiveness. And for us, that was the key test. The reason why that's important is that competitiveness leads to investment, investment produces productivity, and it's ultimately productivity that increases real wages. And that, of course, improves the quality of life for all Australians. So, what we've seen in this Budget is a series of initiatives that do take steps towards increasing our competitiveness. And I'm talking in that regard about the FIRB changes, the Australian response to the Inflation Reduction Act, the single front door, those types of initiatives are important. But the key thing for us is that there's still so much more work that we need to do to genuinely improve Australia's competitiveness. Tackling the hard yards associated with tax reform, genuine industrial relations reform that adds to flexibility in workplaces, and of course, reducing the burden of regulation.

Peter: Okay, that's all long-term stuff. In the short-term, we've got energy rebates, we've got some help with rent, those kinds of things. Do you support those?

Bran: We're very pleased to see that there is support that's going to people who are most in need. That was certainly what we indicated that we would support going into the Budget. We know that households have been doing it tough, and the energy assistance will certainly assist in that regard. Equally, the tax cuts play a role in that space, as does the cap on the price of medicines. All of those things will help people who are at this stage, tightening and continuing to tighten their belts.

Peter: The union's pretty happy about it Bran. When I had the ACTU on earlier, they say it's a good Budget. It's good for wages. Which is completely different to the Chamber of Commerce. I'm wondering if you had a response to that?

Bran: Yeah, I do. The key for us in terms of wages is ultimately we've got to make sure that we're delivering long-term sustainable wages growth. At the moment we look at wages growth that can be inflationary, because it's driving employers to have to put their costs up in order to be able to fund increased wages costs. Now, it's good that people are getting a wage increase. But we want to make that sustainable, which means backing it with productivity. So, when I talk about getting the fundamentals right to attract investment, it's precisely so that we can do that so that we can deliver real wages growth into the long-term. And it's fair to say that in this Budget, we need to see many, many more steps that will ultimately improve our competitiveness, so that we have the scope to drive increased productivity. At the moment our productivity is at a six-decade low, so we do need to increase it.

Peter: And look, and we'll just have to close here. But we've got deficits, red ink everywhere after this year. As the Chamber pointed out earlier, no real medium-term plan to tackle that. And if inflation remains stubborn, I mean, that's not going to be great for business as well to try and get those costs down?

Bran: Well, of course, we do need to get a hold on inflation. And of course, there are initiatives that we've been calling for in that regard too. Certainly around spending constraint, but also in terms of fiscal rules. Ultimately, everything comes back to productivity. I think economists are fond of saying that it's not everything, but in the long run it's almost everything. That's absolutely right. So, we drive that as the primary position that needs to be pushed and continue to be pushing leading into an election. We hope that we can see some policies coming forward as part of what will be a 12-month campaign that genuinely backs in that position.

Peter: Bran, thanks. We'll talk to you soon.


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